Monday, April 24, 2017

Alright Advise [sic]

If this had not made the top ten list last week, I would not be posting this ~ but I am tickled at the response that reddit gives to my 8 Tips That Will Let Any Idiot Improve Their D&D Game:

My favorite is the commenter who feels that I don't like D&D.  I love the affirmation that implies: that someone who doesn't approach a complex, difficult and largely obscure and socially fringe game the same way as "me" must be someone who hates it.

Obviously, people who "hate" the game do not comment on it, they don't blog about it, they don't offer advice in any way except to say, "Stop playing that fucking retarded game."

I have, from time to time, tried to make friends on reddit, tried to bring attention to the blog on reddit or otherwise use reddit for dialogue . . . but this is the sort of response I always find.  I presume these people actually play RPGs.  I can't imagine what sort of play they indulge in ~ undoubtedly something a long, long way from my perspective.  I'd like to say there is room for all of us under the great big shelter of the gaming tent, but frankly, no.  In gaming terms, they're as relevant as the jet trail left behind the mechanical marvel that is flight.  They think they're part of the experience, they make an extravagant, expressive impression, which widens and widens until it ultimately just goes away.

Ah well.  I thought the reader might enjoy seeing how disappointed the greater community is with your choice of posts.


Pandred said...

In my experience, the reddit community for roleplaying games is garbage.

Anybody who still thinks fudging rolls is something worth doing can fuck right off.

Drain said...

You went to the cesspools without the suit and got vitriolic burn. Don't treat it as personal, it's nought but natural chemistry processes in action.

Your tone and approach is diametrically opposed to the generational demographic native of reddit. The juvenile backlash is similarly thus rooted.

I know it only seems like you're playing the same game, but there it has been appropriated by a different user-base: digital natives with a account.

Your words hanging there exposed, taking their spittles of rage costs you all of nothing, and you never know, you might convert some curious soul.

Ozymandias said...

I'll take the bait.

There was a time when I considered storytelling and its accompanying elements - plot, pacing, narrative structure, genre elements, etc - as relevant or even necessary to the roleplaying experience. I've since learned the error and recanted. But it took time. Maybe these people need that opportunity.

To put it another way, I know a pastor whose position is that it doesn't matter where lies the cutoff between saved and damned. What matters is that he work to get as many people from damned to saved. For some of us, what matters is that we get players and DMs away from the misanthropic, dominating, cruel or misguided paradigms of the game, and bring them over to the light. Bring them to the LIGHT! Hallelujah!

Okay, that's a bit much; the point remains that, yes, these people are cretins of the worst order, but at one time, so was I. If there's hope for me, there's hope for them.


Except Adam-M."'s usually overshadowed by his abrasive and dogmatic writing style." Yeah. Fuck that guy.

Alexis Smolensk said...

One of the things that the first five years of blogging has taught me is to take abuse. I do see this sort of comment as "personal." It is personal. It is directed at a person, with a particular motivation, that being to harass, dissuade, vilify and spread hatred. I think one thing we have to resolve upon regarding the internet is to stop minimalizing.

However, that said, I eventually understood that everyone who lifts their voice above a crowd gets this: and that the higher and more popular that voice becomes, the more vitriolic and intense becomes the hate. I don't believe this is a creation of the internet ~ but I do believe that the internet has enabled the unification of this, from tens of thousands of silent, disgruntled, unhappy people watching Barbra Streisand in the 1960s into a coalition of self-righteous, mutually gratified haters watching Christina Aguilera in the present day.

I've adjusted my perspective with this understanding. I am ready to be hated. I am not ready to stop writing. And that is the only formula that counts.

Joey Bennett said...

I wish I knew how to gradually 'train' modern players away from that kind of mentality. I think that lack is currently the largest failing of the industry right now. I understand that there is a certain demographic for which the lighter fare of modern play is a draw.

It can be easier for someone who shows up in a game store to try things out, or join in a group occasionally, or for a dungeon master trying to run a game for the first time, but then they get stuck in this mindset and unable to progress into more meaningful play.

James said...

I find there is a very common idea thatyabletop gaming should be vehicles for DMs to tell stories with varying amounts of input from players, and there are a rather large number of DMs that will fight to maintain this idea.

The fact that it strips away player agency and is ultimately self-aggrandizing generally seems to be of minor concern.

Pandred said...

Well you know, it's really important people hear my personal rendition of the Silmarillion. They can roll some dice while they listen.

Adam McCabe said...

For what it's worth, I'm one of those Reddit people. Hi. That's me.

I think it's pretty shitty how your blog got pulled into the conversation there. It's definitely true that the demographic of r/DnD skews young, and that most of the people there assume that "playing DnD" means playing 5e with a strong narrative focus. Given that that doesn't seem to be your kind of game, I could understand that r/DnD wouldn't necessarily agree with you. Also, the way the question was framed ("I'm a new DM and this advice seems off, can anyone confirm?") primed people to be super critical before even looking at your blog.

Still, I was surprised that you also ended up getting a lot of mindless, spiteful put-downs. Being dragged in front of an audience who inherently doesn't agree with you sucks, but being dragged in front of a disagreeing and hostile audience is ten times worse. I can't say I blame you for calling out people's bullshit.

Also, if I can briefly defend myself from Ozymandias' comment of "Except Adam-M....Yeah. Fuck that guy." I don't think that calling the the post abrasive and dogmatic was necessarily out of hand? It's not supposed to be a judgement of quality, but a statement on the conscious choice of writing style for the list. I think that's a fair assessment, given that Alexis himself labels it "wry." It's also not inherently a bad thing: that style of writing tends to keep things entertaining and easy to read, and it certainly works well for writers like The Angry GM. I was just trying to explain why the list might seem "off" to a new reader and new DM.

Agravain said...

I stopped reading reddit d&d when I noticed that the top posts are mostly stories of DMs pulling rules out of their ass to please the players / avoid tpks / have the story go the way it's supposed to.
Also 90% of the content is sketches, drawings or minis that give very little food for thoughts.

Ozymandias said...

Adam, I would like to direct you to any of several posts by Alexis that specifically address the rhetoric you're using. Unfortunately, I don't have those posts bookmarked - more's the pity - so instead, I recommend that you take the time to read his work. It's worth it. Every last word.

You're likely to learn something.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Adam, that was a considerate, polite comment and it is appreciated.

Ozymandias' remark, "fuck that guy," is based on a very thorough knowledge of this blog and where that particular post came from. Your comment on reddit was typical: it spoke with a particular kind of dogmatism of its own, i.e, that the opinion promoted a game world that would be "old school, high-lethality, player vs. world, DM as an objective referee style dungeon crawl."

This assessment is utterly wrong in every measure. Ozymandias knew that. Every reader of this blog knows it. The assumption you made was so far from the truth as to be genuinely demonstrative of the level of pure-bred ignorance that counts for opinion on reddit.

Personally, my own feeling is that your "grain of truth" demonstrates how little you understood the goals and intent of my post. It is stated quite clearly in the title that these points will "improve" an idiot's game. And they will. Unquestionably. Because I understand the meaning of the word, "improve," while clearly none of the people commenting on the reddit thread do.

Moreover, the context of the post "8 tips" et al was in the line of moronic real estate advice, for people who think they can create a great D&D game by reading a bunch of tips by some "expert," such as those that are constantly being written and touted by the WOTC, pundits, know-it-alls and communities like reddit and other bulletin boards.

"8 tips" et all was satire. The readers of this blog, a highly sophisticated bunch, all understood that, BECAUSE THEY READ THE BLOG. The reddit crowd did not understand it, because of Poe's Law, where the author's intent is lost because the common, unsophisticated, poorly educated reader can't tell the difference between satire and the real thing.

Which, apparently, includes you. Because you missed it also.

You might have seen the clue in the first line, the parody of Britney Spears song, Work Bitch.

A great world is not made with "tips" or "cheap advice," but with hard work. Much hard work. More than most people are able apply, for lack of focus, awareness, perspective or, as I say, the ability to even understand why their precepts are dead wrong.

Your reading of the post as "dogmatic" comes from thinking that any writer can be understood from one post. I invite you to dig deeper into this blog and then decide for yourself if I am "dogmatic" or, in fact, an expert the likes of which you have rarely encountered.

Adam McCabe said...

Hey Alexis, thanks for the thought out response.

You're right that, unlike regular readers like Ozymandias, I haven't read enough of your stuff to fully understand the full context of your post or personal opinions. The unfortunate truth is that if I'm trying to quickly help some new DM who's asking "hey, I found this blog, should I follow this guy's advice?" than I can really only take the advice at face value.

Should a DM use a DM screen? Is it okay for the DM to fudge dice? Should you encourage in-character roleplaying and acting? My personal advice for all of these things is still "depends on what sort of game you and your players want to play." I do think that answering "no" to all of the above, and following your 8 tips literally, does contribute to a certain style of play, but I'll readily admit that "old school, high-lethality, player vs. world, DM as an objective referee style dungeon crawl" might not be a super accurate description (although it certainly can be a fun way to play). I guess I'm just failing to see what about that qualifies as "utterly wrong" or "pure-bred ignorance."

It's similar to the struggle I'm having with Ozymandias' response. I'm sure you've written on the subject, and I'd like to read about it, but I can't really look for relevant posts unless I know what about my "rhetoric" is so wrong or offensive, or what I'm overly dogmatic about.

I think we may actually be on the same page about the whole satire thing. I know I'm not a clearest writer, but my intention wasn't to label you as the author as "dogmatic" or "narrow-minded," but rather the manner in which you chose to write the post. It's "dogmatic" and "narrow-minded" in the sense that you're doing a good job of satirizing the overly-simplistic and pandering tone of those real estate articles.

Also, now I'm interested in your overall thoughts on things. From what I've read of your blog thus far, it seems that I agree with you on a lot of things, and you may have sold me on your book.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Adam, I think you can understand that I'm not sympathetic to trashing my post for the reddit crowd as "help" for a newbie. I feel a little like you threw mud on me to make the new kid laugh.

But . . . I can tell you your personal advice for the use of a screen is 100% wrong, whatever you may think. I would challenge you to throw out the screen and throw every die right in front of your players, telling them before you throw what every result is going to mean. I don't care what game you're playing. And the key word here is GAME. All the opinions about narrative and such totally ignore that this is a game. It is your failure to understand this, perhaps due to your experience, perhaps due the prejudice of others that you either followed or rebelled against (I don't know you) that contributes to the qualification I made.

I'm sorry if that comes off as harsh or rigid. Having read hundreds of thousands of words on game theory, written by experts that study this at the highest levels, I assure you that I am not positing my theory but systematically arrived at truths. Unlike most pundits on the internet, I support my arguments. The DM's screen is something that was conceived of as a good idea by a bunch of amateurs 40 years ago and has remained a reprehensible tradition ~ it needs to go.

As far as a post you might want to read, I suggest this one on Game Theory. Your conception of role-playing seems buried in GNS; you need to upgrade your thinking.

I hope you stay with the blog. You're clearly erudite, self-aware and gracious regarding disagreement, all elements of character that the Greeks, and myself, treasure. But it is clear that you have been intellectually dominating a field that has failed to challenge you.

I wish to point out that, like the other commenters that joined you on reddit, your actual criticism was not for the points themselves, but for a) the game you felt I was running; b) the perceived value of the advice; c) the non-specific measure of truth offered; d) your emotional evaluation of me personally; and e) my motivation.

You've grown lazy in your dialectic, skipping the actual deconstruction and moving strait on to the conclusions, right or wrong. This is a textbook example of someone who has grown tired of explaining because it is generally lost on the listener, so we might just as well go straight to the number of gold stars the content deserves. This is the technique used by journalists to talk to stupid people.

I hope you're ready to talk to smart people ~ because that's what you'll meet around here.

Ozymandias said...

Adam, allow me to offer this perspective:

Apply careful, critical and considerate thought to everything you read and everything you write. Especially the things you write. They will be scrutinized by others without an opportunity for you to explain yourself.

For example: rhetoric. I chose the word on purpose. From Wikipedia, "rhetoric is the art of discourse, wherein a writer or speaker strives to inform, persuade or motivate particular audiences in specific situations." When I read your comment from Reddit and I see "abrasive and dogmatic writing style," I recall other articles, blogs and internet discourses that use similar language, and those that dissect the use of such language. The conclusion I draw is that you're attempting to devalue Alexis' work. You're offering a courteous nod in the form of, "there's at least some grain of truth," but you're dismissive of that truth on the basis that the writing is offensive to your sensibilities. Further, I'm just focusing on that one sentence; if we consider the full comment, it's obvious that you've taken a dismissive stance.

Whether you intended it that way or not.

Consider an example: when I have to discipline my toddler, I sometimes raise my voice. I do this to grab his attention, to ensure that he listens to what I have to say; or I do it because he's about to hurt himself or others, like when he tries to run into the street. His response is to cry because he doesn't like dad yelling at him. He sobs, "Daddy, you made me cry!" I know that in order to get my message across, in order to explain and help him understand the situation, I have to wait until he calms down a bit. But on the internet, we don't have face-to-face communication. We have the illusion of instant communication, but it's not instant; it's not immediate; it's the same as writing letters, essays or novels in response to something we read, except we think it's the same as talking to a person so we're inclined to spit out whatever we're thinking and throw it out there without pausing to ask, "is this the right way to express my thoughts?"

But that is what I do when talking to someone in person because my presence affords me the opportunity to be more nuanced, to apply non-verbal communication and to correct myself if I fail initially. This is not the case online.

LTW said...

I stopped going to /r/DND after a few attempts to comment. Its like dipping your toe in a tank of piranhas. Apparently a lot of people on reddit want me to know that they are having maximum fun and that I am a shithead. I don't need anyone on reddit to tell me that.

Tim said...

I reread the old post and noticed the comments admiring the humourous style.
And then I noticed the following post, Yossarian, was also astonishingly about Redditors becoming upset about the post's content.
Ties in nicely to your comment about blogs recycling content: the internet provides a limitless capacity for recycling outrage. ;)

Adam McCabe said...

I would make the protestation that my intent was to disagree with your article, not to dismiss or trash it, but reading it again I can't deny that I fell pretty far from the mark. That's something I have to give a heartfelt apology for. I generally make an effort to be nice to people on the internet, and I'm genuinely disappointed that I fell through on this one.

Also, you have called me out for skipping argumentation and diving straight into conclusion (correctly, I should add. I deleted entire paragraphs on the altar of concision, for fear of wasting your time). I'm going to take that as carte blanche to talk your ear off because, fuck it, it sounds like an interesting discussion.

If I were to revise my argument to a point-by-point discussion, I would say that your tips about ditching the DM screen and not fudging are the two that I agree with the most. I haven't used a screen since my very first forays into DMing, and I've been rolling dice in the open for awhile (although I do occasionally slip into more creative methods of fudging. Nobody's perfect, I guess). I'd recommend those to the vast majority of DMs.

I am, however, willing to believe that there are groups of a players for whom a DM screen or fudging will improve the game. It is possible that these are necessarily bad players or bad DMs. Hiding things behind a screen may be crutch that DMs should endeavor to do away with, but crutches do exist for a reason.

I largely agree with you that DnD is a game, but I don't see how the question "should a good DM hide things behind a screen" falls under the purview of game theory. As you note, it is incredibly difficult to categorize DnD using the terminology of game theory due to its complexity (and also, I think, due to its reliance on the social contract outside of the written rules of the game). I gather you've written a good deal on the subject, so I'll have to see what I can dig up.

(As a side note, I'd curious as to how you'd classify a freeform, nearly rule-free RPG like Microscope. I'm leaning towards considering that a game as well.)

Two last things. First, I've now spent several hours reading your stuff, so thanks for providing a lot of interesting food for thought. Second, I have one quick criticism of the Game Theory article you listed. I disagree with the definition you give of the "payoff" in DnD. Your claim that the payoff only includes hard numbers (XP, wealth, etc.), but not "touchy-feely sentimentality" seems to run contrary to the definition of "payoff" given in the Game Theory dictionary you linked. According to that, utility is a perfectly valid form of payoff, and I think recognizing that helps to explain a lot of otherwise "irrational" player actions.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Brilliant catch, Tim! I missed that about Yossarian.

Alexis Smolensk said...

So, Adam, now you're a non-screen user. That's very suspicious, given the position you took on the three previous posts. This is the sort of goal-post moving that I usually associate with trolls.

And you are disappointed at your miss at being "nice" to me? Hm. So, you have a strange sort of tourettes that causes you to randomly use words like dogmatic, sarcastic, narrow-minded, abrasive and "safely ignored"? That's a pretty specific sort of failing on your part, given that you seemed to take a stance exactly opposite to politeness.

And finally, I find it odd that you feel the definition I gave for payoff didn't match my statements, since the link I gave begins with the definition of payoff as "the objective functions of the players." I think you might try looking up the word objective and see how much it can apply to "touchy-feely sentimentality," since the definition of objective is the exact antonym of that.

I have a saying on this blog, gained from two decades of experience on the internet: "If it writes like a troll, and obfuscates like a troll, and backpedals like a troll, then it's a troll." I argue this is because the rest of the world knows already how trolls act, and all the non-trolls work so hard to not act that way that it is IMPOSSIBLE to do so by accident.

Adam, you're a troll. You are clever, and erudite, and capable of politeness, but you do not stand by your convictions and you are deliberately pandering when you want to ask questions and draw out the conversation to your advantage. You're a troll.

Goodbye. I suggest you return to Reddit where you belong. I will delete any post you write past this point.

[If you're not a troll, then you'll keep reading the blog and, sometime way, way down the line, if you try to make a non-troll statement that doesn't then lead to trollish behaviour, you will be welcome. But you screwed up this one]

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ozymandias, you're absolutely right.

Fuck that guy.

Adam McCabe said...

I took "objective function" to mean the mathematical term (the function that it is desired to maximize or minimize). In that sense, I suppose it would be the noun definition of "objective," rather than the adjective.

Also, the link to the standard terms of Game Theory you gave in the article defines payoff as "numbers which represent the motivations of players. Payoffs may represent profit, quantity, 'utility,' or other continuous measures (cardinal payoffs), or may simply rank the desirability of outcomes (ordinal payoffs). In all cases, the payoffs must reflect the motivations of the particular player." Neither of those preclude "enjoyment" as a payoff.

I suppose you'll delete this, but I hope it at least provides some insight into that particular criticism.

Thanks for taking the time to respond, I'll be (silently) looking forward to further blog posts.